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Luminar imagines Blade, a "golden halo" of sensors, will replace ungainly tech currently on AV test vehicles. Photo: Cruise, Luminar.

It's easy to spot an autonomous test vehicle in your neighborhood: it looks a bit like Frankenstein, with sensors bolted to the sides and roof. But as self-driving technology matures, sensor design is streamlining, too, bringing AVs closer to market acceptance.

Why it matters: The AV industry is waiting for "its iPhone moment — where everything comes together, and it’s clear, and nobody goes back again," says technology designer Gadi Amit.

AV tech is becoming less conspicuous, though. Luminar, a leading provider, is this week showcasing its new Iris lidar system, which is so small it can be fully integrated into the car's roofline, just above the windshield.

  • It'll appear in late 2022 on new Volvo Cars' models with hands-free highway driving, followed by SAIC, Daimler Trucks North America and Pony.ai.
  • The sleek design is a long way from what AV pioneer Chris Urmson, now CEO of Aurora, once described as the "spinning Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket" on the roof of early AVs.

What's next: Luminar collaborated with Amit to take the integration a step further with Blade, which it described as "a blueprint" for the design of future robotaxis and autonomous trucks.

  • It would incorporate cameras, lidar and radar into a "golden halo" around the top of the vehicle.
  • "It's no longer a sensor, but it becomes the thinking head of the car," Amit said.
  • Luminar CEO Austin Russell says the company is working with auto industry partners to incorporate its technology into their future vehicles.

Go deeper

21 mins ago - Health

Government website for free COVID tests launches early

COVID-19 rapid at-home test kits. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The website where Americans can request free, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests from the government launched Tuesday and is now accepting orders.

Driving the news: The website went live in its beta phase and is operating at a limited capacity a day before its official launch. Every home in the U.S. is eligible for up to four COVID tests, according to the website.

AT&T extends 5G delay over airline panic

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

AT&T said Tuesday it would delay lighting up its 5G signals near a limited number of airports after renewed opposition from the aviation industry over concerns about signal interference.

Why it matters: The CEOs of leading airlines warned of catastrophic disruption to flights if AT&T and Verizon deployed 5G as planned this week.

Driving the news: In a statement, an AT&T spokesperson said the company would launch its 5G service as planned except near a "limited number of towers around certain airport runways as we continue to work with the aviation industry and the (Federal Aviation Administration)."

  • "We are frustrated by the FAA’s inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services, and we urge it do so in a timely manner," the spokesperson said.
  • Verizon did not respond to a request for comment.

Catch up quick: The FAA has warned previously that potential interference from 5G signals, especially in bad weather, could cause flight cancellations or force planes to divert to different airports.

  • Verizon and AT&T have previously committed to creating buffer zones around certain airports for six months to reduce interference risks, along with other safety measures.
  • With those commitments, the companies planned to launch 5G service Wednesday, but faced ongoing concerns from the airlines.
Updated 2 hours ago - World

Ukraine crisis: Blinken to visit Kyiv, then meet Russian foreign minister

Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, following a trip to Kyiv to reinforce U.S. support for Ukraine in the face of a possible Russian invasion, according to a senior U.S. official.

Why it matters: The meeting with Lavrov suggests a diplomatic resolution to the crisis may still be on the table, despite the collapse of security talks between Russia and the West last week.